Horticulture, fishing, livestock, tourism: they’re all pieces of the puzzle driving growth and prosperity in the Gascoyne region. Encompassing the shires of Carnarvon, Exmouth, Shark Bay, and Upper Gascoyne, the region is fringed by around 600 km of Indian Ocean coastline, extends inland about 500 km, and covers an area of 135,073.8 km2 - that’s plenty of space to facilitate the production of some of the state’s finest food.
When it comes to social and economic growth in the Gascoyne, there are eight major pillars that concern the Western Australian Government Authority, the Gascoyne Development Commission. But, it’s the success of the fishing, horticulture, pastoral, and tourism industries in the region that aid Gascoyne Food in all they do.
To understand just how important these industries are to the Gascoyne, here’s a little run down of just how much they contribute to the economy:
Prawns and scallops abound in Shark Bay and Exmouth thanks to the warmer water temperatures and seemingly endless expanses of seagrass meadow growing off the western coast and in the gulf. But that’s not all the high-grade seafood that comes out of the Gascoyne region. There are flourishing crab, snapper, whiting, and mullet fishing industries too.
Contributing upwards of $50 million to the Gascoyne economy (approximately 9% of the total industry in WA) each year, the fishing industry is a formidable force. Seafood processing is also the principal manufacturing activity in the region, with major factories in the popular seaside towns of Carnarvon, Denham, and Exmouth.
FUN FACT: Prawns constitute the greatest catch, weighing in at approximately 2,489 tonnes and $32 million per year.
Most of the region’s horticultural activity is centred around the fertile delta of the mighty Gascoyne River and the town of Carnarvon. Despite its arid appearance (the river flows underground most of the year rendering the bed completely dry) Carnarvon and its plentiful plantations are one of the biggest suppliers of fresh produce around WA. Visitors to the town can sample the high-grade produce first-hand on the Fruit Loop Trail, or on a Saturday morning at the local growers market.
There are some 170 plantations based in and around Carnarvon, covering a whopping 1,500 hectares of land. In 2017, these 170 plantations produced 44,532 tonnes of fruit and vegetables putting a value of approximately $97 million on the industry. The most profitable and prolific crops are bananas, tomatoes, table grapes, capsicum, and mango, which all flourish in the region’s dry, subtropical climate.
FUN FACT: The Gascoyne region produces 99.5% of all Western Australia’s bananas, 62% of the state’s capsicums, and 47.4% of all mangoes.
Pastoral stations aren’t just an industry to the people of the Gascoyne, they’re a way of life that’s woven deep into the fabric of the region. Farming is one of the longest-running industries and one that many take a lot of pride in. Once a prolific wool-producing region, the Gascoyne is now one of the state’s biggest beef, sheep, and lamb meat producers. In 2015 alone, livestock rearing and meat selling brought $22,184,712 million dollars into WA - 2% of the state’s gross value.
There are around 80 pastoral stations in the Gascoyne, each averaging around 149,405 hectares in size. Dotted all over the rural areas of the Gascoyne, pastoral stations contribute to the economy of almost every town in the region. Their large size allows for many heads of cattle or sheep, but plenty of savvy station owners are dipping their toes into the waters of horticulture, inland aquaculture, and outback tourism on top of their day to day operations (take Bullara or Glenburgh stations, for example).
FUN FACT: Cattle farming brings in around $20,542,791 each year, more than double that of sheep farming.
The biggest economic success of the Gascoyne region isn’t farming or fishing, but tourism. Between the years 2016 and 2018, the annual average visitation to the region was 337,400 visitors, with $359 million visitors spend in 2018 alone. While Carnarvon is the most populated town, it’s Exmouth, Coral Bay, and Shark Bay that sees the most tourist traffic.
The success of tourism in the region lies in the spectacular natural landscapes; from the world’s largest monolith - Mount Augustus - to the turquoise waters of Coral Bay and the exquisite Ningaloo reef. Couple that with a rich cultural heritage and an impossibly sunny climate, the Gascoyne region is quite the desirable holiday destination.
FUN FACT: Tourism Australia have recognised the Ningaloo Shark Bay National Landscape as one of 16 National Landscapes across Australia.
The Gascoyne Development Commission are proud sponsors of the annual Gascoyne Food Festival:
To learn more about how the Gascoyne Development Commission advocates for the region’s growth and prosperity, visit www.gdc.wa.gov.au.